2/26/2012

Download Free Software Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 1.2

Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 1.2 

HDR Efex Pro 1.2

 

Download Free Software Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 1.2

Nik Software announced a brand new HDR plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom (and compatible software) for creating HDR images called “HDR Efex Pro” (that’s it shown above).
It’s slated for release sometime in October, but I’ve been playing around with a pre-release version, and I have to say—-it’s pretty cool. True to Nik form, it’s got a great interface. I particularly like the previews of the built-in presets along the left side, and the fact that Vignetting, Levels, and Curves adjustments are build right in, so after you’re done with the Tonemapping, you don’t have to head back to Camera Raw for final tweaking—you can do it all right in the plug-in.
Plus, it has “Viveza-like” control points which let you adjust individual areas in the image. The noise seems very low too, which is big.

Initial Thoughts
One thing that immediately jumped out at me was the fact that this thing was built to be integrated with Photoshop.  Unlike Photomatix, which I feel attempts to try and work as a standalone program, HDR Efex works better a Photoshop plugin than a standalone program.

As someone who does all their photography work in PS and Bridge, I found this to be a really easy piece of software to work with in terms of workflow.

Workflow
Upon loading my first series of brackets I saw a familiar screen confirming the exposures of my three images, but that’s where the comparisons stop.  As soon as confirmation was made, HDR Efex jumps right in to creating the image – saving the ghost adjustments and alignment options until later.  This was a bit of a change.

However immediately upon seeing me image I was happy with the results.  One critique of Photomatix was the “Photomatix look” which is very painterly, and at times fairly surreal.  While you can do that in HDR Efex, there are also a variety of options to create more realistic images, which is my personal preference.
HDR Efex outdoes Photomatix big time in terms of preset options, using 4 different HDR algorithms to achieve various looks.  It has 32 presets that are each adjustable from there.  If you can’t create an image you with HDR Efex, then it’s your own fault.

I should point out that my favorite way to create HDR is to use a preset, and then tweak from there.  It makes it easy to visually see what I’m doing, and it eliminates a lot of the guesswork that many beginning and intermediate HDR photographers experience.

HDR Efex Pro Photo
Image Created With HDR Efex Pro
Performance

HDR Efex Pro is definitely a little bit slower than Photomatix.  The software is slower to load, and image processing takes a little bit longer.  It definitely isn’t bad, and is by no means a deal breaker, but I found it to be 4-5 seconds lower to process images than Photomatix.

Processing
The more I process in HDR Efex, the more I like it.  The workflow is much more straight forward.  It has many of the same adjustments as Photomatix (strength, saturation, contrast etc.), but there are a few features that I love which Photomatix lacks.

The first is the inclusion of two finishing adjustments: Vignette and Levels & Curves.  The vignette makes it extremely easy to do just that, add various types of vignettes to your final images.  They make it extremely easy to do, and do a great job with it.  Definitely saves a little bit of Photoshop time.

The levels and curves tool is very similar to the Photoshop tool.  It allows you to make manual adjustments in exactly the same way, but I’ve found the presets to be excellent, and that’s where this excels.  If you want to get really detailed with it, stick with Photoshop.

The second feature in HDR Efex Pro that I love is the ability to add control points to your image.  You can select any point on your photo and make 8 different adjustments to that specific point (which can be resized to as big or small as you want.  This really helps me with image segments that were too hot or overexposed.

Conclusion
While it still isn’t a completely standalone HDR program (you still need Photoshop for detailed layer masking), it’s close integration with Adobe is a huge step in the right direction.  Along with that, this is the first real legitimate contender to Photomatix in terms of HDR software, and I’ll go as far to say that I think it’s my new software of choice.
Despite being moderately slower than Photomatix, the results and ease of use more than make up for it.

HDR Efex Pro 1.2

Download Free Software Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 1.2
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